From reality to abstract

I have always had an interest in extracting parts of the landscape/natural world and trying to create ‘abstract’ images.

Near my house in Spain there is feature which gave its name to the area in the distant past. That feature is known as ‘El Bañuelo’ which translates from Spanish to ‘the bath’, more or less! There is a grander ‘El Bañuelo’ in Granada City which is a tourist attraction close to the Alhambra Palace but the one near me is much more basic – more rustic as an estate agent/realtor might say! By that I mean it is open air (the one in Granada has a roof with star shaped holes cut out of it) and is basically a rectangular box. It is fed by a spring which runs all year even when we have a run of dry Mediterranean Winters. The spring is still important even though there is now mains water in the area. My neighbours won’t drink the mains water because it is chlorinated so they take bottles up to the spring everyday to collect their drinking water. The ‘Bañuelo’ was used for bathing before mains water came to the area (still is sometimes) and has an adjacent trough where water can be channelled for the sheep and goats farmed in the area. It stores water from the spring which is channelled through pipes to water the adjacent orange groves. Orange trees are thirsty and need a good soaking every week if they are to produce a good quantity of oranges.

‘El Bañuelo’ was therefore an extremely important feature of life in this small part of the Spanish countryside, providing drinking water, somewhere to wash, water for the livestock (which in turn provided meat, milk and cheese), and irrigation for the oranges/lemons and vegetables. Now it is a little scruffy but still an important socio-historical feature of the area. These two images taken today (so the lighting is different than the image I used for the abstract taken earlier) show the reality of its current state.

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I decided to extract from that reality to create an abstract image from it. The first idea was to use the reflected shadows in the water to give me different bands of colour. In effect the shadows were replicating changes in exposure levels for different areas of the water since luminance impacts on how we see colours – the same colour (hue and saturation) seen in bright sunlight looks lighter than the same colour in shadow.

The next task was to select a specific part of the scene to give me a mix of textures, shapes and colours to work with. I chose a composition that included the wall immediately above the water level, the flow of the spring into the water and an angle that gave me diagonal bands of shadow on the secondary diagonal from bottom left of the frame towards the top right, this also created lines leading towards the spring. In post processing I used Nik Color Efex Pro 4 (now part of the Google Empire) to increase the level of abstraction. First by applying the pre-set ‘Detail extractor’ filter to accentuate boundaries between any lines/shapes/textures and then overlaying the pre-set ‘Polaroid transfer’ filter and adjusting the ‘smear’ and ‘tear off’ values until I created the effect I wanted to achieve.

This is the final image.

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  4 comments for “From reality to abstract

  1. May 28, 2014 at 1:05 pm

    Very interesting post and the final image is intriguing and strong.

    I find images so much more interesting when there is a back story and I especially enjoyed the background in your post partly because we own a property in Italy that has a spring, in Italian a “fonte”, in an open arched room beneath the house.
    The house stands a 100 metres or so lower than the village on an old road, now mostly lost, that led from the river valley up to the village. Over time people have built a large catchment tank and a trough under the spring and we understand from the oldest inhabitants of the village that it was where the livestock were watered as they were brought up from the valley each evening and also where the village ladies did their laundry. A few elderly residents have come down to look at it since we finished our renovations because they remember having their weekly bath in the tank when their mothers did the laundry.
    The final point that interested me was that the bread oven by our back door was built because of this water supply and the village ladies baked all their bread there once a fortnight, it was too expensive in wood to fire up weekly. When we lived there we often drank the water from the spring just because it tasted better than tap water and many of our Italian friends would drive up into the mountains with a boot full of bottles to collect water from the higher springs.
    Sorry that this is such a rambling comment but, in the piped water world, we have little comprehension of how the local portable water supply was at the heart of rural communities and all the activities around your bañuelo and our fonte were replicated in every village across the Mediterranean and presumably in plenty of other places as well.
    Your post has made me think that it would be good to document the little springs and wells in our part of Italy before they all get “renovated” to destruction.
    Thank you
    Steve

    • davidcollinsfoto
      May 29, 2014 at 9:20 am

      Thanks Steve for the comment about the image, really appreciate your view particularly after seeing the creativity of your work for TAOP Assignment 3.

      Your place in Italy sounds great and many parallels with the area where I took the photo in Spain. Great to have the spring (‘fuente’ in Spanish, so similar to Italian) on-site, what a feature. The way communities ‘sprung up’ (sorry) around water supplies just proves it was always about ‘location, location, location’ and when you look back in time you can see patterns of decisions being repeated through different eras. For example, the area I live in Spain was once inhabited by Neanderthals, at that time there was housing (caves) with good views (danger and potential food could be seen earlier) and close to water (fresh from the springs but also at that time the sea levels were higher so the valley was then the sea with another source of food).

      Now we have an expat community scattered across the area looking to trade the city for space and sunshine, still choosing houses for the view but with different motives and insisting on the modern essentials (does it have the internet, satellite TV, shops nearby etc etc, I didn’t even think to ask about mains water I just assumed it was a given – bit of an exaggeration but the gist is true.

      Your idea of recording the springs etc before they become totally redundant or reinvented in today’s world as a water feature perhaps, sounds like a plan, particularly if it was combined with snippets of history through the words of people who can contextualise it from their perspective of an earlier time. Perhaps a diptych approach combining a ‘relic’ from the landscape with a portrait of the person remembering the past and her/his words. I’ll have to think about that some more but it would feed my interest in how the landscape is gradually adapted to meet our needs but all around we can find snippets of the past whether it is a bread oven or a railway viaduct etc.

      Thanks again for the comment. David.

  2. May 28, 2014 at 5:09 pm

    Fascinating idea! If you do a more vertical crop (more wall and water) you could end up with something that would look like a Rothko?

    • davidcollinsfoto
      May 29, 2014 at 9:23 am

      Thanks Jane, as usual you speak and I learn a bit more about the world of art. I like the Rothko idea and connection. Can’t wait to crop the image and get it on eBay for $87 million! Good luck with the next phase of your assignment with the office spaces. David

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